One of the most difficult parts of life is losing someone you love - especially around the holiday season. Whether it’s a spouse or life partner, death is an emotionally challenging event that must be approached with care for yourself.
Ultimately, this hardship is complicated, intense, and can affect you in a lot of ways. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are ways you can cope, heal, and move forward little by little.
No matter what age you are when you lose someone, it’s never easy. For a senior who has been with the same person for a long time, this drastic change affects just about every area of life. Therefore, grief can manifest itself in many ways - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Throughout the stages of the grieving process, you may experience:
“The stages of grief are very true at every age,” says Senior Living Expert Lori Williams of Lori Williams Senior Services. “However, it tends to be way more intense after having been with someone for 50-plus years. It changes everything about your routine, traditions, even small daily things like what you usually eat together on Sunday nights. It can be hard to concentrate when you’re constantly missing and thinking about this person. It’s a hard time, but it’s important that we be patient with ourselves during it and through each stage.”
While the stages and signs of grief are all common, everyone grieves differently. This means that we also cope differently, too. There are ways that can help supplement your own personal coping methods. These are meant to help you care for yourself through this time.
After losing a spouse, the holidays can become emotionally cumbersome. Traditions just don’t feel the same, especially that first holiday without them. Avadian has some insight on how to cope.
“Coping during the first holiday without a spouse is difficult - the remembering special moments like how he carved the turkey, her special recipe, or even recounting that spontaneous trip,” Avadian says. “The surviving spouse will have a much better time if s/he plans ahead. Whatever the plan - spending time alone, not decorating or sending cards, or asking family members to continue the holiday traditions in order to simply enjoy oneself - is OK.”
On the other hand, if the holiday calls for something different, that’s OK, too. Williams suggests mixing things up to help combat any sadness.
“When you lose someone, getting through the holidays is rough,” Williams says. “After all, it’s affecting the whole family. So, what I suggest is doing something to honor the one you’ve lost. For example, when my father passed away, we didn’t continue with regular traditions that year. Instead, we chose to go to a place he always loved to visit: fishing camp. It was completely low-key and non-traditional, but for us as a family, it was a way to honor his memory, have fun, and feel closer to him. We’ll always look back on that fondly.”
You’re also encouraged to find a change of scenery, perhaps in a place of natural beauty. Reconnecting with nature can be a spiritual, healing experience. Williams suggests that for future holidays, the family makes a tributary ornament for the loved one, shares the loved one’s memoirs or stories, cooks special family recipes, or donates to an organization that was meaningful to their lost loved one.
There’s no denying that losing a parent is incredibly painful, which is why this is such a crucial time to come together and heal as a family. As your surviving parent is going through exponential pain, it’s important to be there as a strong support system. For now, Avadian says to “give your gift of time with Mom or Dad. Both of you will be rewarded with memories.”
When a spouse passes away, it can be hard to maintain the same amount of independence as before. Senior living communities are meant to help maintain the level of independence, community support, and care you need. However, making this decision and taking action is a process. Make sure you’re moving to the right place at the right pace.
“Truly, not making any sudden changes is sound advice during any major life change,” says Avadian.
So, take your time to heal. As you research the right decisions to make for later on, look into each community’s counseling programs, philosophy, and expertise. Ask lots of questions. And, most importantly, feel 100% comfortable with that next decision.
If you're a senior looking for Independent Living or you're an adult child seeking Assisted Living or Memory Care services for your loved one, contact us to schedule a tour or request more information about a community near you.
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